3 Feminist Lessons From Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, LeBron James, And Eva Longoria

CREDIT: AP Images/Rob Hoffman

All hail Queen B, or else.

The Center for American Progress partnered with Maria Shriver to put together The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, which chronicles the ways in which the ongoing recession has affected American women. It’s a fascinating collection of everything from photojournalism to first-hand accounts of women workers, increasing numbers of whom are the breadwinners in their families. And it’s also got testimonials from men and women with enormous cultural power, some of whom have been increasingly vocal about their feminism both in their work as advocates, and in their artistic work. I wanted to highlight three of those ideas.

1. From Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, men and women need to be equally invested in pay equality: Knowles-Carter writes in her essay in the report that:

Unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.

Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.

One thing I think she might have added is that we should teach boys and men that it’s in their interests for the women in their lives not to experience pay discrimination. If your wife is paid fairly, your household income goes up, and your family as a whole is less vulnerable if you lose your job. If your sister gets equal pay, she may be more able to contribute to the care of your parents or to help you in a crisis, and less likely to depend on you financially in case of a crippling emergency. If your mother is paid what she ought to be paid, you may not have to worry as much about how she’ll pay for your college education. Making up that 23 percent gap isn’t about redistributing income from men to women. It’s about making sure that everyone is more financially secure.

2. From LeBron James, men and women aren’t so different that they can’t learn lessons about parenting from each other: King James writes, in a long meditation on his mother’s efforts to provide a stable environment for him as a child, that:

After the Heat won the 2012 NBA Championship, the team was invited to the White House. Speaking about me, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, President Barack Obama said, “For all the young men out there who are looking up to them all the time, for them to see somebody who cares about their kids and is there for them day in and day out, that’s a good message to send. It’s a positive message to send, and we’re very proud of them for that.”

The truth is that everything I’ve learned about being a parent to my boys—9-year-old LeBron Jr. and 6-year-old Bryce—I learned from my mother. Everything I know about being loving and caring, and sacrificing and showing up and being present in my children’s lives—I learned all of that from her example.

In other words, being a man isn’t diametrically opposed to being a woman. And instead of looking down on women’s work, men have a lot to learn from it.

3. From Eva Longoria, when we underestimate women, we all lose: I hadn’t known the first statistic Longoria gives us here, but it’s a striking one:

Latinas are incredibly entrepreneurial. The number of Latina-owned businesses has increased at eight times the rate of men-owned businesses in recent years. Yet in spite of their ambition and drive, many Latinas are not achieving the American Dream. One in three of us drops out of high school, and 25 percent of Latinas live in poverty. Latina unemployment is high at 9 percent, and when they are in the workforce, Latinas earn less than 60 cents for every dollar a white man earns for the same job.

With more than 25 million Latinas in the United States and projections putting us at 15 percent of the total population by 2050, we must all pay attention to the fate of Latinas because the economic future of our country depends on it.

In other words, we should try to close the gaps between the aspirations people have and the skills available to them to realize their ambitions.